Justin Karcher

A Yearning for Anyone Else

At this party

we all dump our iPhones

into the Adderall aquarium

pay attention

there’s dancing

being poor

my ex tells me, “Poetry is

the only job

you’ve ever wanted”

Prosecco snowflakes

start falling

from the ceiling

bad batch of coke on the Ouija board

& the ghost of Helen Keller

appears before me

she throws my aviator sunglasses

on the floor & dances on them

my friend tells me, “Love is like

a pile of raincoats

in the middle of the desert

stop waiting for the rain

be surprised”

I can’t remember the last time I made out

maybe when Obama was still

leader of the free world

‪I like to think that when we’re asleep

‪our unused tongues leave our mouths

‪meet up in an America

‪where Obama is still President


Elegy for David Berman or When It Starts Snowing in Your Head, Imagine a Green Hill Instead

The moment I come home from work, I’m like

“Alexa, play me Silver Jews,” because David Berman is dead

hung himself at the age of 52. When the news dropped

I was scrolling through Twitter while running around

a large unfurnished room in a snow globe of an office building

in Buffalo, NY, a city where your thoughts are always crystallized in ice

even in the summertime, so every three hours, as mandated

by the State, we run around in all directions in a designated space

shaking the psychotic snowmen out of our brains, sometimes

they limply roll out of our ears like forgettable music, other times

they’re violent & unforgettable refusing to leave, it takes forever

to push them out of our mouths like music that hurts the heart

& we don’t want them to leave because when they do, it’s like

reverse frostbite & that’s just torturous, sometimes the numbness

is all we have to remind us that we still feel. Anyway, after bashing

our heads in, we go back to our desks, the snowless humidity

building basements of new songs we desperately need to hear

but they’re always just out of reach, so we wither away

unlike those shambolic flowers on a green hill in someone else’s imagination

we always wanna be there instead, instead of this, it seems so lush

& promising, the brackish bloom of youth, young people

who just graduated from high school, the day after the big day

& they’re frolicking on that green hill collecting chestnuts

that are more like grenades, how they throw ‘em at the sun

an exercise in boastfulness, we’ll burn brighter than you

when all is said & done, we never want to be unreleased

but sometimes fate is a lobbyist working for someone

who hates you, who has more money than you do, so it might be

out of your freelancing hands, a boomerang or an eye roll

will you lead astray, but hopefully you’ll live like a shoreline

a transcendent carrier of ships or dreams, even if you

never leave your motel room, even if your gravity shifts

& you end up singing alone, a casual bummer but extra-empathetic

almost joyous. Anyway, I’m feeling mildly psychedelic

back at my place & Alexa refuses to gift me the voice

I want to hear right now, instead she goes silent, then it starts

raining eyelashes in my kitchen & my cat’s going crazy

maybe a revelation: these are the wishes we all keep buried in our gut

maybe we shouldn’t, maybe we should listen to the singers

look for desire that actually burns, what makes Earth special

is that it’s the only planet we know of that has life & music

I guess that’s okay for now, that there will always be voices

in the snow, on that green hill, in the heat, on the radio


Justin Karcher (Twitter: @Justin_Karcher. Instagram: the.man.about.town) is a Best of the Net- and Pushcart-nominated poet and playwright born and raised in Buffalo, New York. He is the author of several books, including Tailgating at the Gates of Hell (Ghost City Press, 2015). He is also the editor of Ghost City Review and co-editor of the anthologies My Next Heart: New Buffalo Poetry (BlazeVOX [books], 2017) and MANSION (dancing girl press, 2019).

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